At least a few of my loyal readers are familiar with one of my goals for 2010: to fly fish PA waters. This latest of adventures begins with a previous fishing visit – some 2 years ago – before I’d ever explored the PA fishing wilderness. Back then, Sr. Staff Hydrologist Dan and I were barely acquainted fly fishing buddies and his choice for my first fly fishing experience in PA waters was a pre-season visit to the Delayed Harvest / Artificial Lures Only (DH / ALO) section of the Loyalsock.
Loyalsock Creek, known to keystone flyfishers as “the sock”, is bigger water than many might expect. It is more a river than a creek and those visiting it should be sure to pack chest waders and a 9 foot 4 weight or 5 weight outfit. That first visit, though beautiful in both the weather and the picturesque surroundings, was fishless, and Dan was discouraged, to say the least. But what I brought back was a very much heightened awareness to the fly fishing possibilities “down south” in Pee-Ay” as they say…
Fast forward to just 2 weeks ago. Color the day with similar weather and add more water. Both Dan and I arrived in the parking section, encouraged by the presence of a few other anglers. We hiked upstream, since all of the other anglers were fishing just below the access.
Dan found the long run we had fished 2 years before, and though it was flowing beautiful and clear, there was nothing doing there. We saw not a fish and had no strikes on a variety of nymphs. So we headed upstream further, taking a logging road, and arriving at a location that Dan swore would change our luck.
Dan was right about the luck, but wrong about the riffle. “What the hell…” were the words he uttered as we descended the bank and looked over long flat water with only a hint of current. It’s a little cliche, but nonetheless true, that the only thing one can depend on with creeks, streams, and rivers, is that they change.
On the other side of the “island” that separates the Loyalsock at this spot was some nice water, and it was here that “our”, or I should say, Dan’s luck changed for the better.
The beadhead hare’s ear nymph he was using seemed to entice one gorgeous holdover rainbow…
We continued to fish this upper stretch of the DH / ALO stretch of the Loyalsock without any more luck. Around noon, we returned to the parking area where we chatted with an older gentleman, named Tom, who theorized that the stocking truck was unable to access the upper stretches of the creek, and dumped most of the fish below us, where the rest of the anglers had been fishing. Tom seemed like a knowledgeable angler, a guy from PA who fished the Loyalsock every year around this time, and often did well. Somehow our conversation drifted off to his past as an Air Force F4 pilot. The effusive Tom told a story of flying low over a turkey farm in Alabama, and the roar of his Phantom’s twin GE J79 engines and their combined 35,000 lbf of thrust in full afterburner made such a hellacious roar that $80,000 dollars worth of commercial turkeys stampeded to one end of their barn and trampled each other to death! Needless to say, pilot Tom got a talking to over that mission.
After finishing lunch and bidding Tom a good day, Dan and I headed downstream from the access. Tom had portrayed this water as West Branch Delaware-like – meaning big, deep, and relatively flat water – and he was not far off the mark. Not long after wading in chest deep, a tan caddis hatch took off and trout started showing themselves with random rises. Stoneflies joined in the festivities, and eventually mayflies also took flight. Fishing was frustrating to say the least. Dan landed another nice rainbow and I missed two fish, but the fish were extremely selective. By around 3 pm that 44 – 46 degree water and cold wind had taken its toll and we gave up the ghost.
Was the Loyalsock “loyal” to Dan’s original claims? Well, not really, but this last trip at least showed promise. As we pulled away from the parking access, Dan, himself, said it seemed we did better when we fished apart. So, I’ll have my sights set on a return to this pretty river, but maybe this time, I’ll go it alone, to truly test “the sock”…